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Sanderson 1/4 Plate hand & stand camera c1904

Sanderson cameras were the brainchild of F. H. Sanderson, a cabinet maker with an interest in architectural photography. The principle feature of all Sanderson Cameras are the lensboard support struts which are made to allow a variety of camera movements. The design was patented by Sanderson in 1895 but production was entrusted to Holmes Bros. Houghton's handled the marketing and in 1904 Houghton merged with Holmes Bros. The Sanderson cameras are all based on a mahogany wooden box, being covered in black leather, with the exception of the uncovered teak wood examples intended to be used in warm humid climates - the so called Tropical models. Up until around 1912 most had the fashionable maroon bellows of the era before switching to black. The metalwork supporting the lensboard was principally brass, lacquered to keep the finish, which it does admirably. These struts allowed the lensboard to be unlocked to remove the distortions otherwise inherent in architectural photography. The principle movement is "rise". When photographing tall buildings, bearing in mind that "tall" back in 19th Century England was a lot shorter than today's "tall", a camera would need to be angled upwards to encompass the top of the structure. This produces a characteristic distortion, magnifying the perspective - which is both ugly and undesirable. The Sanderson was designed to be mounted horizontally on a tripod, a flat plane bubble level being incorporated from around 1904 in the lens bed to aid this. Keeping the camera flat, the lensboard would be shifted vertically to get the top of the building in shot. The lensboard could then also be unlocked to change the axis of the lens whilst keeping the film plane parallel to the face of the building allowing the centre of the lens to be used and preventing the lens barrel from cropping off the image. To get very tall buildings in the frame, a large vertical rise may have been required - to the extent that the bellows would touch the top of the body. To prevent this from causing the bellows to sag and cut off the image, the top of the body was hinged to allow it to swing open out of harms way. For recording detailed elements of architecture, the photographer was also able to rack the lens out to twice the focal length, making very close up photography possible. All of these adjustments were made using the ground glass screen to focus the image - possibly under a cloak, before inserting the light sensitive plate to make the image. Various lens and shutter combinations were fitted during the long production life of the Sanderson range and they came in different sizes. The growing use of roll film in smaller formats and the many easily portable quality cameras with lens rise that became increasingly available from the late 1920s progressively shrank the market for large plate cameras and the last of the Sandersons left the production line in 1939. This example was acquired in October 2002. Further information with another earlier example here. Explanation of lens rise and fall movement is on a separate page.

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Constructional variations over the first few years

Sanderson 1/4 Plate hand & stand camera c1904

Body No.6835
Shutter, Unicum No.485489 speeds T, B, 1, 2, 5, 25, 50 & 100th
Lens, f/6 Dallmeyer stigmatic series II No.67116 f/6
Condition, 5F.

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Sanderson 1/4 Plate hand & stand camera c1904

Sanderson 1/4 Plate hand & stand camera c1904

Shown with maximum rise.
Rise allows the top of taller buildings to be included in the image area without angling the camera upwards, which magnifies the perspective horribly.

Shown with double extension.
Extending the bellows beyond the limit of the lens bed with the extending rack, meant that close ups of architectural details could be recorded.
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